Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Christmas Gift

Our housekeeper Veronica is a very lovely young woman.  She is married to a piki piki (motorcycle) driver and has a five year old son.  Her husband has a boda-boda business, which means he drives people on his motorcycle like a taxi.  Veronica is a wonderful cook and also does our shopping, cleaning and laundry (by hand).  They are both very hard working people.  They live higher up the mountain from us near Irente Farm.
One day last week when Veronica went home her house had been broken into.  The thieves took almost everything...the cushions from her furniture, the sheets and blankets off their beds, her son’s few toys, and their charcoal cooker, pots, dishes...even some of their clothing.  The next day when she came to work she was very upset and had the pastor next door come with her to explain what had happened.  She went to the police station that day in Lushoto to report the theft.  She and her husband also went to see if they could see any of their things for sale at the market.  
Yesterday, when we returned home for our lunch, we had a great surprise.  Veronica had decorated our home with a Christmas tree and also new linens for our furniture and coffee table.  She wanted to share the Christmas spirit with us.  She saw our pine cone Christmas tree and wanted to help make our “spirits bright”.   The tree is a branch of a ferny evergreen decorated with cut flowers.  Even in her loss and sadness, she wanted to help us to enjoy our holidays.
This brought to mind a Christmas season we had back in 1989.  Tom’s wonderful Aunt Betty, closer than any grandmother could be, died shortly before Christmas.  My father was in and our of Cooper Hospital Oncology department.  It was probably the lowest point in our lives.  One night our doorbell rang.  When we answered it no one was there but there was a wrapped present on the doormat.  Inside was a small glass tree filled with candy.  Over the next week or so, every night the same thing would happen.  I can’t remember everything, but there was a bayberry candle and a pointsetta, small things that meant the world to us.  We would wait and take turns watching out the window to see if we could find who our “Secret Santa” was.  We still do not know, but hope that their kindness, like Veronica’s has been repaid to them in some way.  
This is what Christmas should be.  Not the latest electronic gadget or expensive toy.  It should be Christ in our hearts, helping others, caring and praying for others and walking the path Jesus would want us to walk.  Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is born to us today and everyday.
God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday in Lushoto

As I write this, I am sitting on the porch of Tumaini Restaurant watching Lushoto go by.  The number of people who come here on a Saturday is amazing, but half the number that will be here tomorrow, market day.  Today was our first drive down the mountain on our own.  Well, we were actually accompanied by three Swedish volunteers who are staying at the Irente Hostel over the Christmas holidays.  
This past week saw the start of English classes.  The class size has varied from 8 in one class to a high of 18.  The students’ attendance is dependent on what is happening with the children.  The students include 32 health care workers and the driver, Christian.
The girls range in age from 18 to 22 years old.  They come from all over Tanzania, including one girl from Zanzibar.  They come from all educational backgrounds and have varying knowledge of English.  It is very interesting and rewarding work, but sometimes already challenging.  
Tom has been very busy helping around the Home with projects ranging from childcare, chain saw repair, dryer repair, and splitting fire wood.  Soon, he will start his own class, teaching a young girl named Nema who is about 7 years old.  Nema lives at the home.  Because of some medical problems, they have not found a placement for her.  She attends primary school, but they are on Holiday break until mid-January.  The Assistant Director of the Home asked if perhaps Tom could work with Nema and her friend Anna.
It has been challenging particularly with the holidays approaching so quickly.  We thank God for the invention of the internet, computers, Skype and iPods.  We have talked about how difficult it must have been for those early Lutheran missionaries, buried in Tanga, who probably waited weeks or months at a time to hear from their families.  The seeds of faith that they planted have produced an abundant harvest in the people here.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Irente View Point

Today is Friday, December 9, 2011, a day of celebration for the people of Tanzania.  Fifty years ago they gained their independence from Great Britain.
This week was very busy for us.  We worked at the home everyday with the children.  On Wednesday morning, we traveled to Lushoto for morning devotions at the Diocese office and met Bishop Munga and his staff.  We shared greetings from our synod to theirs.
Our next-door neighbors returned from a trip to Indonesia on Wednesday evening.  Pastor Joyce is the minister of Irente Lutheran Parish (companion to Lutheran Church of the Resurrection).  She and her husband have three children, two boys and a girl.  
Today Susan and I took a walk to Irente View, about 4 kilometers from our home.  This was a place we visited when we were here on our last trip.  Irente View is one of the highest points in this region, which gives one of the most beautiful sights in the entire world.  On a clear day, you can see for almost one hundred miles.  While Susan and I were enjoying the view, we talked about the last time we were here.  How wonderful it was to have our fellow members of St John’s share that experience with us then.  As we sat looking over the Masai Plains, we shared our thoughts about our journey to date.
How blessed we have been from the beginning of this journey.  Yes, we had many challenges to face, but we have had ten times the number of people needed to help us get through them.  Everywhere we go, people have taken us under their wing and walked with us every day.  When people hear that we will be here longer than just a few months, they are excited.  They like having long relationships.
I can only hope that we reflect the true meaning of why we are serving here.  We are here to walk “shoulder to shoulder” bringing God’s message to each other, also to show that we care for each other and that we can learn from each other.  This could only happen because God is leading the way.
Susan and I would like to thank you for allowing us to represent the churches of SEPA and its’ members with this mission of serving at Irente Childrens Home.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Travel to Tanga 11/30-12/2/11

On Wednesday, November 30th Godfrey, the driver who brought us here from Arusha, arrived to take us to Tanga to get our driver’s licenses and do some shopping.  When we arrived at our new home, we found that the kitchen did not have a refrigerator, stove, dishes, pots, pans or utensils.  One of the women from the home named Mayinda
has been helping us our first week here.  She has cooked our meals on a charcoal cooker located in a small building off the kitchen.  Also, since there is no water heater in the house, she has been bringing us water from the Children’s Home for our showers at night and also in the morning for us to wash up.  We are living the Tanzanian lifestyle.  Pastor Joyce said they will need to look into the shower situation.
So, we traveled to Tanga and began a three day process for driver’s licenses.  It involved a lot of waiting, delays due to power outages, the license bureau’s computer being down, and many other steps.  This morning we received our provisional licenses, but there was an eight hour wait before the process for the real license would begin.  Pastor Shemkala kindly offered to pick up our licenses next week.  He also put a good word in for us with a member of his parish who works in the Revenue office.  This probably helped to speed things up quite a bit.
In between steps for the license, we did some shopping.  Godfrey took us to a shop where appliances were sold.  We bought a small dorm sized refrigerator and a “gas cooker” which is a two burner stove that uses a propane tank.  It is similar to what we had in our trailer.  We also went to another shop and bought the things we needed for the kitchen..pots, a pan, some plastic dishes and utensils.  At a stationary store we got supplies for the classroom and some English workbooks.  All in all, we did pretty good.  
Our first night in Tanga, Pastor Shemkala came to the hostel where we were staying to greet us.  We had dinner with him and got caught up on events at Kana and St John’s.  It was a wonderful reunion.  Thursday, we went to his home for dinner and got to see his  whole family.  They have all grown over the last three years.  
When we returned home, our new housekeeper had already started.  She not only cleaned the whole house while we were away, she did laundry and even weeded the garden.  Her name is Veronica.  She could be about 20 years old and does a lot of giggling.  When I was trying to say something in Kiswahili, she took my arm and laughed saying, “You are so funny!”  I think we will do a lot of laughing together.
She made us a very good dinner of beans and rice and a vegetable stew.  We are somewhat vegetarian since we arrived here.  At the language school I had some bacon a few mornings, but since then we have only had a little chicken at one meal.  I believe with all the fruit and vegetables, we are eating healthier that before.  Also no Entemann’s is helpful for the waistline.
This afternoon, we had our first company!  Mr Mrisho Hussein stopped in to introduce himself and to invite us to his son’s graduation party tomorrow.  His son is graduating from Sekuko University.  Shortly after he arrived, the Evangelist from Irente Lutheran Church, Mr. Stephan Kipingu, also stopped by and we had tea with them.  Mr Hussein is a teacher at the Irente School for the Blind.  He was in the first graduating class from Sekuko University last year.  He is also visually challenged, but is able to read with the help of some very thick glasses.  His English is wonderful as is Evangelisti Kipingu’s.  They were here for more than an hour and a half.  Mr. Hussein also enjoyed two cups of the Starbuck’s Coffee Bishop Burkat gave us.  
We are sorry for the delay in getting any emails out over the last few days.  We took the computer with us, but forgot the power converter.  Little by little we are getting settled in and happy to be here.
We thank God for all of the help we have received from the people here, especially Godfrey who spent three days away from his wife and children to take us to Tanga.
We also that God for everyone at home for your love, support and  prayers.  We will be in touch soon.
Amani, (peace)
Susan and Tom
ps.  when we plugged the fridge in, the outlet in the kitchen does not the fridge is in the living room.  
pss.. Have you ever bought a dozen eggs and discovered that one still has a feather attached?
ppss...  There is a small lizzard/chameleon type thing in the potted plant on our mantle!